by Tim Cool: To be or not to be…is no longer the question. For many churches, the burning question is what to do with facilities and do we even need to own a facility. This used to be a question that only church planters were asking. When you are first starting out, the common question is how do we “house” our church?
Do we rent a school?
Do we rent a theater?
Do we find a store front?
What about using another church on an off night?
Given a number of factors, these conversations are no longer limited to church planters but are being asked in a whole host of church settings including established churches looking to get out from under a deteriorating facility that they cannot afford, to churches needing to re-invent themselves. I have been involved in the planning, development and maintaining of church facilities and until recently, this topic was almost never discussed by churches that were more than 2-3 years old.
You may be saying“Duh, Tim…We knew that.”Or this may be foreign territory for you…so let’s take a little time to explore as well as provide a very practical tool for your own evaluation.
To get started, let’s look at some trends and realities:
- For most churches, the cost of owning a facility is the second or third largest expenditure in their budget…usually second to personnel but ahead of dollars actually spent on ministry.
- In most regions of the country, as of the writing of this post, we are seeing significant increases in construction costs.
- In many cities and towns, there are still a large amount of empty church buildings that were vacated as part of the aftermath of the Great Recession.
- The life cycle cost of owning a building during a typical 40-year period of time will be about 80% of the total cost of ownership…it takes a great deal to own a building.
- In addition, if you own a building, then you…your church…has been tasked to be a steward of the facility entrusted to you by God. That is no small responsibility. In fact, in order to keep up with the natural rate of physical deterioration and be prepared for the inevitablelife cycle costs, you need to set aside $1-3.00/Square Foot EVERY YEAR. So if you have a 50,000 SF, you need to set aside $50,000 – $150,000 annually.